Suriname. Domestic war, 1986-1992
Type of conflict: Civil war
Conflict: Struggle for power over East Suriname and control of the cocaine trade.
Parties involved: Army led by Desi Bouterse and the so-called Jungle Commando led by Ronnie Brunswijk
Estimated number of victims: Some 350 deaths. 25,000 inhabitants flee the interior of Suriname
In 1980, Desi Bouterse seizes power in Suriname in a coup d’état. His National Military Council is accused of corruption, favouritism and involvement in drug trafficking. The country’s economy performs poorly. In 1986, hundreds of Maroons (former West African slaves) take up arms in the east of Suriname out of dissatisfaction with the army. As a ‘Jungle Commando’, they carry out various attacks, but the army takes revenge on the local population. Villages are flattened, and roads, electricity lines, schools and so on are destroyed. A low point is reached with the slaughter of 39 people in the village of Moiwana in 1986. The rebels and army sign a peace agreement when democracy returns in 1992.
The uprising by the Maroons is led by Ronnie Brunswijk, a former bodyguard of Bouterse. In East Suriname Brunswijk is seen as a modern-day Robin Hood who stands up for the poor. He earns most of his money in the gold trade. He is also accused, though not yet punished, of cocaine trafficking and involvement in a bank raid. Desi Bouterse is the chief suspect in the case of the December Murders in 1982, in which 15 prominent Surinamers are killed, and in the massacre in Moiwana. He is sentenced to 11 years imprisonment in the Netherlands for involvement in the trafficking of 474 kilograms of cocaine. In 2010 the archenemies reunite, with Brunswijk helping Bouterse to achieve a majority and become president. Brunswijk himself acts as master of ceremonies when Bouterse officially takes office as president.